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NHS reforms taking too long

It was barely a year ago that NHS England launched their Wheelchair Services Improvement Programme aimed at yes improving these services following many complaints that they were simply not good enough. The long term aim of the groups that have been set up is to form the Wheelchair Leadership Alliance that will govern all associated services. Unfortunately progress is slow since it was announced in April 2014.

Sir Bert Massie, former chairman of the Disability Rights Commission which advised the previous Labour government on equality legislation for disabled people, has said he cannot see any improvements to services as a result.

here's now a much wider range of wheelchairs available than there was 40 years ago," he says. "But the problem of getting an assessment quickly, and a wheelchair that meets your needs quickly, is still very hit and miss and depends on where you live."

One man who is a full time wheelchair user and has been since 2007 when he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone disease was invited to attend both of the summits organised by the NHS last year, his comment was that he felt the NHS was just paying lip service to those affected like himself. Liam has experienced several problems with wheelchairs supplied by the NHS and has since bought his own to get around these problems.

Another example Mr Dwyer cites relates to him having a fall in 2009, when broke his ribs and was not able to propel his manual chair by himself. The couple asked the NHS to loan them a powered chair while his injuries healed. It took five months to arrive, by which time Dwyer had recovered. The chair, however, was too small.

Over time as Mr Dwyers conditioned developed he was no longer able to use a self propelled chair due to his grip deteriorating so he was assessed for a new chair and told by the NHS that there was not sufficient funding to provide what was needed.

After despairing with the NHS Mr Dwyer and his wife decided to approach the Motor Neurone Disease Association, which agreed to fund a new chair which Dwyer says arrived within 22 days. Though the NHS didn't pay for it, they are still responsible for its maintenance. After reporting an intermittent fault, Dwyer recently had to wait 164 days for the NHS to repair his chair. Delays like this frustrate Dwyer. He points out that friends of his have died in a short space of time after receiving a diagnosis of MND and cannot afford to wait for a wheelchair.

Lets hope we can see some swift progress to help improve this situation and assist those in genuine need like Mr Dwyer. There may be hope as Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has been appointed to lead the Wheelchair Leadership Alliance, which met for the first time in March. The group is made up of representatives with an interest in these services, such as providers and organisations that represent wheelchair users.

The group is writing a charter that it hopes will be taken seriously which lays out the precise changes they would like to see. A draft is already prepared and it is hoped it will be finalised before too long.

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